My original intent for this post was a very lengthy essay I wrote earlier in the year about color blindness, Schroedinger’s Cat, and perception of the sacred. Then I saw how (relatively) short the other posts have been and began to wonder if I had properly understood the forum. But when I saw that I was scheduled for Christmas day, that plan went out the window—wrong subject, wrong length, wrong day.
These days it seems nothing is working according to my plan or my timetable.
We normally spend Christmas day at my in-laws’ house, and most of my wife’s eight brothers and sisters show up with their families for a massive gathering where we open gifts and play games and generally enjoy each others’ company.
Unfortunately, that won’t happen this year; Mom is far too radioactive at the moment.
She was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer earlier in the year, and had her second radiation therapy session earlier this week to deal with tumors on her liver. As a result, it’s just not safe to be around her until the radiation dissipates. Not to mention that she’s far too tired to take visitors, regardless of our hopes or expectations.
Despite all our planning, history, and tradition, it simply isn’t working out according to schedule.
It feels to me that Mormon literature is following a similar trajectory. Over the years so many people have expected so many things of us, and we simply aren’t following the timetable. We have not established Mormon thought as a common element of the mainstream dialog; our Zion is not yet recognized by the world (or even by ourselves) as the shining city on the hill that represents the best of both moral and social accomplishment; we have not yet produced Miltons and Shakespeares whose elegance and insight transcend time and place.
Of course, neither has anyone else in the last hundred-plus years. Reasons include radical social and political shift, transformational technology and business practice, and all the fads, trends, and distractions that inevitably throw a spanner in the works of the best laid plans. Not to mention the vast noise of a massive and expanding marketplace.
But it’s hard to get too down about that. We Mormons believe in progress, in line upon line, in holding fast to that which is good and enduring to the end. If we haven’t reached our goal yet, that just means we need to keep working—and recognize that while the shape of accomplishment may be quite different than what we planned, the result can still lead to the same place.
Two thousand years ago events occurred that failed to live up to local expectation, but that nonetheless represented the beginning of a marvelous work. Yet the plan still progresses, and all of it goals will be fulfilled, if not quite in sync with the local schedule or exactly according to the expectations offered at different times along the way.
I believe the same is true of our quest to create worthy Mormon literature for both ourselves and the world. All we can do is continue to hope, and to work, and to progress. The details will work themselves out.
My family is still visiting the in-laws this year, but we’ll wait a week to do it. The activities of the visit will be different, the timing will be off, and the context will be significantly altered over previous years. But the essentials will still be there, and all the more memorable this year when we had to push our family gathering back a week because Grandma was too radioactive to see us on Christmas day.
Delayed a bit, but not indefinitely deferred. Changed in the details, but not in its core essence.
Merry Christmas. May the Lord bless you and keep you.